Philippine abducters demand peace in island not ransom: Official

The kidnappers allowed Sulu province vice governor Nur-Ana Sahidulla to check on the condition of the captives and make sure they were fed and unharmed.

Philippine abducters demand peace in island not ransom: Official

A Philippine government official visited three kidnapped workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday on a southern island where they have been held by Muslim rebels for almost two weeks, officials said.

The kidnappers allowed Sulu province vice governor Nur-Ana Sahidulla to check on the condition of the captives and make sure they were fed and unharmed.

"They are all okay and in good condition," Sahidulla told reporters, showing a picture of her taken with the ICRC team on the island of Jolo.

She said the gunmen holding the captives did not mention any ransom demand but requested livelihood projects in their communities as well as peace on the island.

Police said the three captives were being held by abducters with links to a top leader of the Abu Sayyaf.

The three captives were seen smiling in the picture, and at least one was wearing a shirt with the ICRC logo. They were all standing together, the men unshaven.

Andreas Notter, a 38 year-old Swiss national; Eugenio Vagni, a 62-year-old Italian; and 37 year-old Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba were abducted on Jan. 15 a few hundred yards (metres) from a prison on Jolo where they had inspected a water and sanitation project.

"We embraced the first time we met. They were being fed properly and given all the available amenities, including clean water," Sahidulla said.

Roland Bigler, ICRC spokesman in Manila, confirmed the meeting between Sahidulla and his three colleagues, who he said in a statement "appeared to be in good physical shape".

"It's a positive sign that this face-to-face contact took place," Alain Aeschlimann, head of ICRC operations for Asia and Pacific, said in a statement posted on the ICRC website.

The ICRC said there has been regular phone contact between its office in Manila and the three captives. The latest call took place on Wednesday morning.

"We are always glad to be able to hear their voices and know they are together. Their loves one are thinking about them all the time and trying to stay strong while continuing to hope that Eugenio, Mary-Jeanb and Andreas will be home soon."

Sahidulla said she initiated contact with the abducters because she was getting worried about their condition.

"I told those who are holding them that these people they are holding are here to help us. They are people of peace," she said, telling the abducters that she was there not as a negotiator but as a friend of the captives.

Reuters
Last Mod: 28 Ocak 2009, 16:06
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